Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Train Adventures in Skåne

Usually, when I head down to southern Sweden to visit the family, I end up with a broken down car. Or I run out of gas because I am an idiot. One or the other. This time, I drove down in a blinding snowstorm. I made it, the heat worked; I didn’t run out of gas. All in all, quite the success really.

This time was different though. I had planned ahead. I was going to leave my car with my family, who was then going to drive it up a few days later. I was taking the train home to Stockholm. X-2000. The thing screams along on the rails and gets me to Stockholm after only a few hours. It’s amazing. Quick. Comfortable. Usually more expensive than driving though unless you plan ahead. And as mentioned before, I did just that.

I started my journey at 5:30 in evening from Helsingborg station. I was heading to Hässleholm, about an hour by train, at which point I would change over from the regional train I was on to the X-2000. I wasn’t horribly thrilled with the connection because Hässleholm train station can best be described as a few walls, a few stairs, and a roof, no more, no less, and I was going to have to sit there for about half an hour.

The train arrived three minutes later than planned. You might ask why I noticed a three minute delay. It’s because, like any good traveler, immediately after stepping off the train I checked to see which platform I was leaving from and to make sure everything was on time. The display told me that my train was three minutes late in arriving. Unfortunately, it also told me that my next train would be leaving at 20:55. That’s one hour and 58 minutes later than expected. My half hour had nearly quadrupled. Awesome.

I’m big. This means that once 6:30 rolls around, it starts to be about time for dinner. I headed over to the local kebab shop and enjoyed a pile of tubed meat shaved onto a plate. Delicious really. I ate while watching what was apparently the owners’ choice of TV. Top Model. It seemed fitting that I was watching damn near anorexic women strut around on TV while filling myself with meat.

Having finished my meal I headed back to Hässleholm’s train station. I sat down. I stood up. I browsed through magazines. I contemplated purchasing candy. I sat down again. I stood up. I wandered around. I purchased candy. I sat down. I ate candy. I checked the departure board.

Damn it. 21:40. Awesome, an extra 45 minutes. I pulled out my computer. I attempted to get internet. No luck. I typed a bit. I attempted to learn German. No luck. I stood up. I sat down. I stood up. I eavesdropped on everyone calling friends and family to tell them they were late. I checked the departure board again. 22:15. Yes. What’s another 35 minutes? Unfortunately, my expected arrival time in Stockholm was originally 22:35.

At this point people started to lose it. Angry phone calls were made; one woman in particular caught my eye. She made several phone calls. All seemed to be to friends and family. At least one was to her father. After the initial shock of being horribly delayed, she loudly proclaimed that she had to work the next day. For 12 hours. She also mentioned that she was so angry she could hardly talk anymore. Strangely enough, after ending that conversation she made another phone call. And repeated the exact same thoughts. After the fourth phone call, she was still so angry she could hardly talk. Yet continued to do so. There is something to be said for her ability to fight through the inability to speak and do just that.

I thought it was funny. Mostly because it was a hell of a lot more fun than trying to learn German. It became even better when the phone calls stopped. Not because they stopped, but because 10 minutes after they stopped she turned to the woman sitting next to her and began to bitch and moan. This time about the fact that her phone was dead. And she had an SMS ticket. Had she really not been able to talk, she at least would have still had access to her train ticket. Bummer.

Finally, the departure board was updated again, this time to 23:13, then 23:20. Around that time, the train showed up and I made my way back to Stockholm. Promises were made by SJ. They would refund my ticket. They would call me. They might even pay for my taxi, it was all a haze. Three and a half hours later I was in a taxi on my way home. Tired and dreading the day ahead. I was right to do so, turns out three hours of sleep, a full day’s work, and three beers with friends that evening along with Stockholm’s icy streets results in me taking a spill and catching myself with my elbows. Grace is not one of my strong points. Like I said: I’m big.

Welcome to Sweden. And train adventures in Skåne.

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14 comments:

  1. Nej men vänta? Det här kan inte vara sant... alla vet ju att SJ ALLTID kommer i tid. Det är inte alls så att de alltid är sena, att tågen i mexico är bättre på att hålla tiden, nej nej... lögner...

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  2. SJ är väldigt bra på att hålla tider, det är bara det att det är vinter och det har blivit mycket sämre sedan privatiseringarna har satt igång. Testa London så får du se vad jag menar.

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  3. You're blaming SJ because you fell over drunk? ;-)

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  4. Aber Behaarte, wann willst du verstehen das mann niemal zum Skåne fahrt ohne problemen erhalten? Pah, fuck if I know German either. The point is though - you should by now have realized that going to Skåne always invoves problems. So stop. And have a Happy New Year.

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  5. The smell of my crap after eating beans is better than SJ.

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  6. The next time you're going to use the SJ, i recommend to record a podcast in the interval to teach a few English words and phrases, it'd be good for you and for us!

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  7. Hairy--
    I had a parallel event in Gällivare on September '08. Read about it here, if you like:
    http://contemporaryhaibunonline.com/pages43/Pavellas_EmptyTime.html

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  8. I took the much more reliable malmö aviation for my trip between malmö and stockholm instead of that crappy railroad. Resulted in a 3h delay and a landing at arlanda instead of bromma... And no food onboard. Do all modes of transportation suck between christmas an new years?

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  9. Some compensation for your inconvenience would be nice, at least he cost of a kebab, a taxi, and a bag of godis!

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  10. DAMN!!!!

    too bad i was out of the country for the last few weeks, i would've totally, and utterly stalked you in hassleholm... how magical that would've been.... for me. ;)

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  11. Having just returned from Oslo, I have to say I'm not that impressed with Scandinavian efficiency. I think that airport may be worse than even Charles de Gaulle. But then, it was the holidays...

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  12. @Dofus – you’re right. SJ would never be late. Ever.

    @Sebastian – But winter comes every year. That’s what I don’t understand. Every year it comes and every year public transportation seems surprised.

    @engelsk – well… yes. Yes I am (although in my defense, I only had two beers. Which actually might make it worse that I ended up falling down. So clearly it is SJs fault.)

    @terander – damn that language. And damn the trips to Skåne, you might just be right.

    @anonymous – wow. Gross. But hilarious.

    @anonymous – my voice is best suited for the bygone era of silent films.

    @pavellas – oh I like it!

    @Lejon – they seem to. I have yet to speak with anyone who had much luck around that time.

    @rinse – a bag of godis would have kept me happy for a while.

    @LostInTranslation – it wouldn’t have been hard. I spent several hours in the exact same spot in the train station.

    @Stacy – I stand by my statement that Arlanda is the worst airport in the world.

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